Pocket guide points to environmental progress

A pocket guide highlighting Britain's progress towards sustainability in some areas, and the lack of it in others, has been published by the Government.

The sustainable development indicators in your pocket looks at how the UK has changed over the last five years and diagnoses the country’s environmental, social and economic wellbieng.

Overall it appears Britain’s environment is improving although there are also a number of areas where things are getting worse.

On the plus side, for example, air pollution emissions are down while waste recycling, river water quality and local environmental quality are improving and more of our energy is coming from renewable sources.

But CO2 emmissions from road freight, private vehicles, houses and aviation, urban ozone pollution and water lost through leaks are all getting worse and the amount of household waste we are producing is getting worse.

A spokesman for Defra told edie the idea of the publication was to provide a ‘health check’ for the UK and ensure those who were interested could access the information.

“It’s for anybody and everybody who wants to understand how we measure sustainability. We’re sending it out widely to schools, councils and libraries,” he said.

“We’ve tried over the years to make these more user friendly so they are accessible to all…and give people more of an idea of what we mean when we talk about sustainability.

Despite rising CO2 emissions in several key areas – such as transport and housing – the UK was on track to meet its Kyoto Targets, if not the more stringent self-imposed targets, he said.

A lot of resources have gone into persuading the public to reduce waste and domestic energy consumption, but despite this both continue to rise.

“We’re doing what we can but it’s up to people to do their bit. We need to up our game,” said the Defra spokesman.

He said the Government had put a lot of effort into tackling household emissions and, particularly via energy efficiency, and huge numbers of households had benefited from subsidised energy efficiency measures.

“The Government has time and time again reminded people, without being too nanny state-ish, that they can contribute a lot by swapping to low energy lightbulbs and energy efficient appliances,” he said.

“People are becoming more aware that the little things can make a big difference.

Efforts to reduce household rubbish are also a mixed bag.

“Less and less is going to landfill, which is a good thing, but at the same time people are creating more and more waste,” said the spokesman.

“Recycling rates have more than trebled since this Government came to power in 1997.”

Environment Minister Ian Pearson said: “These indicators highlight the challenges for our lifestyles, for business and for policy makers if we are to move towards ‘one planet’ living.

“They illustrate where we are making progress and where we may need to think and do things differently to get improvements.

“The need to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the home and from our cars in order to combat climate change is clearly shown. But the indicators also demonstrate a wide range of other areas where action is needed.

“We are all in this together. Action by Government, individuals and business are all needed if we are going to avoid dangerous climate change and enjoy a better quality of life without compromising the quality of life for future generations.

“People change their behaviour when they feel that their actions will make a difference, which is why it is important that they can see for themselves where we are getting things right or where we all need to do more.”

Sam Bond

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